Authors: B. Roman
David works at his computer with single-minded focus trying to design gridwork patterns that will recreate the energy of the Singer and Rose crystals. Each time he puts together a grid, he receives a computer message instead, each one more cryptic than the previous one:
There will be no star wars in the next millennium. No one will have to fight to touch the stars or claim them as their own
There is no ultimate truth, for the Universe is constantly revealing itself and all its mysteries, which are infinite and unknowable
But one elaborate grid pattern evokes a message that is chillingly akin to what Ishtar once told him:
Humanity should always be greater than technology.
At this, the hard drive crashes and the monitor goes dark.
David wonders if the problem is evidence of the century-end computer glitch that everyone fearfully anticipates because computers were never programmed to numerically recognize a new century let alone a new millennium. Computers run everything from trains to nuclear power plants to bank systems, to milking cows and running the White House. At the stroke of midnight on December 31, the theory goes, all computers and all systems run by computers will fail completely, with disastrous results worldwide. For several years, computer programmers have been working at a feverish pitch to correct old encoding systems in computers that impact financial, political, social and business structures.
But David's computer is a new model with a fail-safe encoding system built in. No, it's not the Millennium bug.
“What are you trying to tell me?” he demands, and swats the monitor with an open hand.
A vivid memory springs to David's mind, of his adventure on Coronadus when all of the machines came back to life after lying dormant for years. Coronadus had once been a teeming metropolis of scientific and technological sophistication and innovation. But all the knowledge was used for self-aggrandizement, power, and military aggression. When finally the psyche of Coronadus lost its ability to distinguish between what was morally right and what was profitable, a catastrophic war nearly destroyed the entire civilization.
For years after, Coronadans lived simply, rejecting any and all technology, happy in the stillness and serenity of the organic life – until David arrived with the Singer crystal that reactivated the dormant industrial relics of the pre-war society. Not only did all the machines and electrical power systems re-awaken, so did the Coronadans' lust for power and material things.
Now David realizes that one important thing was missing from the Coronadus culture: music. Except for a strolling minstrel or two in the town square, there was nothing in that majestic city that supported any art forms at all, no galleries or theaters, no concert halls or music conservatories. As David had always heard from Dr. Ramirez, “the measure of a great civilization is the value it places on the arts.” Music is the source of all life, of all things sustainable, he believed, “possessing a divinity everyone should experience.”
Maybe, like the Coronadans, I have to go back to the beginning, to the place where things were simpler.”
Then maybe I'll find the solution to my own problems.
As David and Dr. Ramirez study the weather systems
around the country, the forecast looks favorable for the coming weeks. But an unusual wind system hovers over the Port Avalon area of the satellite map.
“This is really strange.” Dr. Ramirez's comment streams across David's screen in red letters.
“What is?” David sends an instant reply.
“I tested the vibrational frequency of Port Avalon this morning,” the doctor replies, “and it resonated to F# Major, a very calm earth frequency. Now, this disruption in the weather. Something is out of tune in the universe.”
David looks up from his monitor with a perplexed expression. With Dr. Ramirez, dissonance in music also means chaos in the world. It is a reflection of man's moods, his consciousness. The professor openly harbors animosity toward contemporary music and believes it is in large part a cause of the unrest, violence and disruptive behavior in society.
He once recalled to David what a respected music icon had said in a recent magazine interview: “The music industry is a cesspool. I'm ashamed to be a part of it. The videos, especially, have corrupted our children. The way the girl singers dress, the obscene gestures on stage, it's soft porn. Behind the scenes it's overrun with greed, drugs, and untalented and unprincipled thugs.”
“Come on, Doc,” David had protested. “Everyone in the music biz can't be a corrupt thug.”
music, David, just the people who run the business. The power brokers. We are at their mercy.”
Sounds like Nathan Fischbacher and his greedy corporate cronies,
David ruminated. Fischbacher, the snake of a businessman who once ran Cole Shipping, stole his father's designs, and almost swindled the town of Port Avalon out of their economic livelihood. People in power. Must they always be evil? David hoped it wasn't true.
* * *
Even in the fall, Port Avalon's weather is usually mild, never stormy. But as though validating Dr. Ramirez's concerns about something being amiss in the universe, the clear blue sky suddenly turns black and foreboding. The sight triggers anxiety in David and he quickly leaves his computer station to stand close to the observatory's panoramic windows. Without warning, a wild palm frond flies into the window. Instinctively David ducks, forgetting that the windows are double-paned and virtually unbreakable. Still, the shock of the flying debris unnerves him, especially when another frond and other objects sail by in quick succession.
For 20 minutes a sustained wind of 60 miles per hour pounds the coastal town, bringing with it a blinding rain that dumps six inches of water, overflows in ditches and sweeps onto heavily trafficked roads. Fender benders abound, and one major accident sends four people to the hospital in critical condition. Numerous trees topple, bringing down power lines with them as they crash onto homes and cars. Then, as suddenly as it came, the storm abates. The sky is again that beautiful serene cloudless blue typical of Port Avalon in the autumn.
“Dr. Ramirez! What's going on?” David beseeches the professor. “How can this be happening!” David turns toward Ramirez hoping for an explanation, but sees him slumped on the floor next to his chair.
“Doc? Doc!” David calls, checking the man's pulse. Ramirez is white and his skin clammy. “I'll call 911!”
But the professor comes to and shakes his head no, stopping David from calling, saying that he is alright.
“I really think I should call someone. You look awful. What happened?”
“I'm not sure,” Dr. Ramirez says, as David helps him up and into his chair. “I was just entering some data and, well - I just blacked out, I guess.”
“Yeah. You and the sky,” David quips.
“What do you mean? The sky looks fine, David. Clear and calm.”
“It wasn't that way a minute ago. Listen. I think you'd better go home. Do you want me to drive you?”
“No. No. Thanks, David. I'm okay now.” He sips some mineral water from the ever-present sports bottle on his desk. “There. That's better. Thanks. But I will go home early. You should, too.”
“I'll be leaving in a minute,” David says. “I just have to close down our stations.”
Ramirez leaves the lab, but David decides to follow after him just to be sure he's really okay. David turns off his computer, then goes to the professor's station. A dizzying string of mysterious codes on Ramirez's screen disappear swiftly as David shuts the system down.
Dr. Ramirez's house is on the same route as David's. Once he is certain that the professor has arrived safely, David drives home to be sure that everyone there is okay. Aside from a mess of small tree branches in the front yard and some overturned flower pots on the porch, the Nickerson house seems to be untouched by the storm. He jogs up the stairs to check on Dorothy. She is sound asleep with her nurse in the room reading. Isaac is at a meeting, the nurse tells him, and Sally is at a friend's house.
David decides to evaluate the damage done to the ecosystem on the beach. He finds a lot of kelp, dead jellies and starfish littering the sand. Large slabs of wood, pieces of pipe and roof shingles lay in a disturbing heap on the once pristine sand.
Heather is there, and she rushes to his side, instinctively about to give him a hug. Surprised by the gesture, David stiffens and pulls back from her.
“David,” she signs. “I was so worried about you. I'm glad you're okay.” Heather loves David and longs for an indication from him that he feels the same. She learned sign language in the hopes it would bring them closer, and educated herself on the use of technical equipment designed for the hearing impaired. David respects and cares for Heather, and enjoys sharing their passion for the Beach Watch program, but for reasons she cannot understand, he resists anything more than a platonic relationship.
Heather catches David's eye and says, “There's going to be a meeting of the Beach Watch members tonight at seven. Can you come?”
“Sure. What's the agenda?”
“The storm, for one,” she says. “And the effects of all the new development on Port Avalon's coastline. We're preparing for the next City Council meeting.”
David nods. “I'll be there.”
“Well…I have to go now,” Heather says, hoping David will go with her.
“See ya later,” David waves her off casually, and Heather backs away a few steps, reluctant to leave. Seeing the far-away look in his eyes, a look she has seen before but could never penetrate, she turns and leaves, disappointed as usual.
When he is certain Heather is out of sight, David removes the Wind Rose from his pants pocket. He had sensed something was happening but he didn't dare reveal the compass in front of Heather. Bianca had told him never to let anyone know he had it, and he kept his promise faithfully. It is as he thought. The needle is spinning on the antique navigational instrument, spinning like it had in Coronadus when it caught the magnetic field of the Singer crystal David carried in the pouch on his belt.
It can only mean one thing. The spin of the needle on the Wind Rose means that the Singer is near, and so is the great ship Moon Singer. A small rogue wave washes over David's feet and when the tide ebbs something glints in the sand. Its brilliance is unmistakable. It
the Singer. It is the
! Desperately, David reaches for it but it eludes his grasp as another wave splashes over it. The breaker pulls the Singer out of the sand and into the receding water.
Frantic, David wades into the surf to retrieve the crystal, but he isn't fast enough. The strong pull of the tide carries the Singer out to the open sea. David is devastated yet elated at the same time. He now knows the Singer is not lost forever. He will get it back. But how? And when? And when he does get it back, what in the world will he do with it? At the moment, he has no mission, no reason to possess it. Not at this moment, anyway. Is his life about to be disrupted again? Does he really want it to be?
The members of the Beach Watch Team wait impatiently for their turn on the City Council Agenda while some mundane township business is discussed and entered into record. The Team had voted unanimously the night before to bring their issues immediately to the Council and the public, and hope to have ample time to present their case. Heather takes the podium as spokesperson with an articulate and confident demeanor.
“The brief but powerful storm Port Avalon experienced yesterday gave us a glimpse of our lack of readiness to handle a severe emergency,” Heather proclaims. “The mess on the beach will take days to clean up, and a lot of the debris out there came from uncontained building materials and hazardous chemicals used in constructing all those ostentatious exhibits for the Millennium celebration.”
“Miss Du Priest,” Councilman Jergens addresses Heather, with a patronizing lilt to his voice, “Port Avalon needs those ostentatious exhibits as you call them to further ensure the economic livelihood of the town. The more visitors we can bring in for the celebration, the more money we'll have to fund those projects that you and your team so ardently embrace.”
“Yes,” Heather agreed, “more money for the right kind of projects would be welcome, but not if your contractors cause more problems than we already have.”
“Problems is an understatement,”Jim Dancy interrupts from the audience. “What's the Town Council gonna do about all the immigrants coming here to take over jobs that we locals are supposed to have? All the construction and landscaping, the craftsman's jobs we could do just as well. But we won't work for peanuts.”
Jim Dancy had made a similar argument a year ago when Port Avalon was contemplating taking on a Navy contract to build war ships. Only then, his concern was government employees coming in to fill the jobs that the local residents needed desperately.
Feeling Jim's frustration, several constituents grumble along with him. Mayor Fiori bangs his gavel loudly several times for order.
“Okay, everyone,” the Mayor imposes, “the jobs issue is not on the agenda tonight. You'll have to sign up with the Court Clerk to be heard on that.”
“We'll be heard all right,” Jim counters, “by you and the unwelcome out-of-towners who don't belong here…”
Mayor Fiore is exasperated. “Jim, that's enough of that kind of talk. You try my patience and your remarks are incendiary. Bring it to the Court Clerk for a proper hearing.”
“If I may continue?” Heather beseeches the panel.
“Yes, Miss Du Priest. You have the floor, but make it quick.”
“The Beach Watch Team is here tonight to give you a wake-up call. If this storm is a harbinger, we all must be prepared.”
“I have to agree with Miss Du Priest on this,” Councilman Deitz says. “We have a Disaster Preparedness Plan that will be a disaster if we don't vote soon on funds to reinforce the levee just north of town. A levee break would be catastrophic if an even bigger storm comes through here.”
Councilman Jergens, who is the tight-fisted fiscal officer on the Council, differs. “Even with the revenue from new development, we can't make the levee a priority right now. Our funds are primarily allocated in the short term for grants to local businesses to upgrade for the Millennium Project, a policy I might add agreed to by the Council with the full support of the citizens.”
“I'll tell you one way to raise more revenue,” Heather submits adamantly. “Levy heavy fines on the developers for any damage they inflict on the ecosystem. In fact, let them post a bond in front held in escrow for just such a purpose.”
The Beach Watch Team applauds enthusiastically, but their outburst is waved off by the mayor who counters with, “That would only discourage growth and limit the town's potential in the free market.”
“We are not anti-growth,” Heather implores, gesturing out towards the Team. “But with growth comes responsibility. We are the stewards of the Earth, not the custodians of a sewer. The reason people visit Port Avalon and want to live here is because we still have one of the few unspoiled beaches left in the country. We have protected marine life habitats and fascinating tide pools teaming with organisms vital to the health of the environment. They want this more than more high rise hotels and shopping malls.”
“Or short term residents who steal our jobs then take the money and run,” Jim Dancy pops up again.
With the meeting going overtime and getting out of control, a motion is made to adjourn, tabling the Beach Watch's issues. The motion is seconded, and carried, but the grumbling of disgruntled Port Avalon citizens follows them from the Council chambers and into the street.
Throughout the entire proceeding, David has sat quietly, reading lips and absorbing the sign language provided by an interpreter. A year ago, he was not so dispassionate, when the town voted to accept the contract from the Navy.
He was livid and disheartened to envision the drastic change that would come over Port Avalon. But because some dedicated and innovative children in the town came up with alternative ideas on how to make Port Avalon prosperous using creative ideas and peaceful solutions, the Navy contract wasn't needed.
For a while Port Avalon reveled in the influx of new business from people all over the country who sought out the town's hospitable and warm environment. Then it happened, the Millennium Madness, as David named it, the desire for more money and bigger commercial enterprises, all fueled by unfounded paranoia.
David isn't too concerned about Jim Dancy's fury over the immigrant population, for it was Jim Dancy who had made the most startling turnaround a year ago, becoming a kind and selfless neighbor. Had Jim not used his pickup truck to haul in a new storage freezer for Maggie Sturgess' restaurant, she would have had to shut down indefinitely. Maggie rewarded Jim with a month of free meals for saving her business. David believes Jim will come around again this time, for the good of all concerned.